I’ve talked about Vintage Blue at length many times over the past 18 months, so I won’t bore you with minutiae. Hammerfest was once again upon us over the weekend, and The Lovehammers set up a great rock show that had Chicago’s favorite sons as the final band before Marty Casey and company blew the roof off the House Of Blues. It was a full circle kind of night, as the very first time I covered the band they were at the same venue opening two nights for Sister Hazel. They’ve come a long way since then, and it probably won’t be much longer until Vintage Blue is asking bands to open for them at one of our city’s most renowned music venues. The party was so rocking even The Rolling Stones, in town for a 4-show run at the United Center, couldn’t resist dropping by.
The set seemed to fly by as the band kept things fast and furious. They played some songs off their debut album Strike The Mics, and also threw in three new ones (I think). As always the energy was high, with bassist Cesar Corral frantically running the length of the stage during every song. He really is the heart of the band, with passion dripping from every pore of his body. He’s always fun to watch at shows, and like a dog getting to run around in the country it was nice to watch him move freely on a stage suited to his needs.
Ryan Tibbs is a natural frontman, banter with the audience seems to be as normal as breathing for him. He and Ben Bassett share singing duties, but when it comes to communicating with the crowd he takes front and center. Tibbs is a funny, charming guy even when he’s not trying, so when he turns it on he’s like Brian Williams times Jimmy Stewart-impossible not to like. It doesn’t hurt that he writes good songs and provides listeners with an emotional connection to the music.
Bassett, more stoic but no less enjoyable as a person, shreds on the guitar. The two voices couldn’t be more different, but they go together brilliantly. Tonight was more of the same as the two banged out one rocker after another, especially “Hey Hey,” one of my favorites from their record.
The band had some surprises waiting for us in the back end of their set featuring a special guest on a cover and a mashup that mixes songs from the 80’s and today. First, the band launched into a version of The Black Keys song “Lonely Boy.” It was a great version-I’m not much of a Black Keys fan, so I thought VB’s was better-aided by special guest vocalist Marty Casey. The crowd erupted when he came out and he definitely earned it.
For their last trick Vintage Blue unveiled their latest mashup. I asked them about it during our interview last week, but they weren’t dishing any details. The last one they did was quite impressive, so they had a lot to live up to. It started with their song “Unchained,” but quickly veered off into Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” after a Will Crowden drum fill that made me think it was gonna be Dire Straits. From there Matt Zimmerman took over, leading them into Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight.” I thought Matt’s voice sounded really good, and I hoped they would do a little more of the song, but then Tibbs came back in to start the third part of the mashup-“Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Unfortunately it was only the hook so we didn’t get to hear him rap.
I think this marked the fifth or sixth Vintage Blue show I’ve seen (including the acoustic set they generously provided for a show I put together) and every time I walk away completely satisfied. They are arena rockers currently paying their dues before they get to play the huge stages their music calls for. If you haven’t had a chance to see them yet and live in the Chicago area, you’re in luck because they have a bunch of shows coming this summer. June 8th they’ll be in Northbrook for the St. Norbert Block Party, June 28th they’ll share a stage with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes for The World’s Largest Block Party, July 13th they play Taste of Chicago followed on July 14th with the Roscoe Village Burger Fest (come hungry), and finally July 20th at the Sheffield Garden Walk. So there’s no shortage of opportunities and no excuses.
For more pics from the show, check out our photographers Facebook page!
To see my interview with the band from just before the show, click here.